FuturePub is back! Here’s what happened on May the 4th

18th May 2023

“Really fun and friendly atmosphere, great opportunity to learn about all sorts of new tech and meet interesting people.”

Tish Mehta, Warwick University

Our write-up of the night

We take a look back at a successful FuturePub event, our first since the pandemic. FuturePub took place on May the Fourth (be with you) at The Royal Institution in London, the historic home of engaging people with research. Read on to learn about the event, discover who gave a lightning talk and how you can watch them on-demand, and check out our photo gallery.

FuturePub’s Back, Alright!

Thursday May the 4th, also known as Star Wars Day, saw the much-anticipated return of #FuturePub! After a short pandemic-induced break, we were thrilled to be back celebrating and showcasing the best of research innovation. This time we were at the Royal Institution (Ri), the spiritual home of science communications owing to the venue’s long history of engaging the public with the latest scientific breakthroughs. With 15 Nobel Prize winners and 10 elements associated with the Ri, alongside a whole host of novel scientific discoveries that have been made at the Ri, it felt like the perfect place to bring our community together to network, natter, and learn about some of the new technologies that are changing the way we not only do research but also how we disseminate its findings.

Why is it called FuturePub?

While the “Future” part is fairly self-explanatory, the “Pub” bit makes people wonder. Does it stand for “publication” or for “public house”? Delightfully, the answer is both! We often have talks about the future of scholarly publishing tech (amongst other things), and after the talks we end up at the pub! Win-win, or should that be pub-pub? 🙂

What is FuturePub like?

FuturePub is our way of bringing people from different segments of the research community working in different roles together in one room to discuss the latest in research, communications and engagement in an informal setting, and this FuturePub event was no exception. Tickets had gone quickly — we were fully booked well in advance of the night — and nearly everyone who booked was able to make it (although we did miss those who messaged to say their plans had had to change at the last minute).

So with almost 100 attendees we were close to capacity on the night, and it created a fun, bustling atmosphere! Many people commented on how great it was to be back, and a quick survey at the start of the lightning talks conducted using the highly scientific “cheerometer” revealed that around a third of attendees were returning FuturePubbers while the remainder were attending for the first time. A great balance! 🙂

“Fantastic event for connecting with people from across the scientific and scientific publishing world. A highly stimulating environment, covering both fun and intellectual discussion.”

Chris Arthurs, Hadean (speaker)

It can be hard to convey the vibe of a FuturePub event… so we recorded it! Here’s a lovely video montage created by our photographers/videographers on the night, Dragos and Miki (if the video doesn’t show below, you may need to accept cookies, or simply click here to view directly on YouTube):

This year also saw the launch of some very snazzy FuturePub branding! Our large monograms could be seen on the team’s T-shirts, on our banners, on the holding slides, and most importantly on our laptop stickers available on the swag table. The monograms may all have looked the same but attendees enjoyed spotting the difference between them all – a subtle nod to the fact that the future of research is interdisciplinary and features so many different but equally important fields of study.

John, Alison, Suze and Marcus from Digital Science sporting the latest and greatest purple FuturePub T-shirts! The T-shirts were so popular we may look into getting a small batch of them for attendees of our next FuturePub London event later this year!

Who did we hear from?

Lightning talks are a key feature of all our FuturePub events; short, interesting and exciting intros to cool new things that people are building, ideally related in some way to scholarly communication 🙂 We particularly love demos of things people have built themselves — you’ll find a lot of start-up founders speaking at FuturePub! 

This time we had five talks on a range of topics: 

Our first talk was from Andrew Preston, founder of Cassyni, a platform that stores research talks and makes the talk and the content easily accessible, easy to navigate, and easy to cite. It is no wonder therefore that you can, in a delightfully meta way, access ALL the talks from the evening on Cassyni here.

Next up we heard from Ivy Cavendish who founded TooWrite, a tool which helps researchers and students to plan, structure and execute research communications in a more engaging, less stressful way. Watch Ivy’s talk in full on Cassyni here.

Our third talk from PeerRef founder Elliott Lumb discussed the pros and cons of a system of peer-reviewing research publications independently of journals. This talk generated a lot of discussion during the Q&A with lots of interest in the area. Watch Elliott’s talk in full on Cassyni here.

This led perfectly to our fourth talk on how to measure success for Open Science, delivered by Iain Hyrnaszkiewicz of PLOS. Iain’s lightning talk gave the audience a lot of food for thought, and showcased how the answer requires engagement from so many different research stakeholders to truly define and measure success in this important quest. Watch Iain’s talk in full on Cassyni here.

Our final talk captured the futuristic element of FuturePub perfectly as Chris Arthurs and Mimi Keshani — from Hadean — shared their thoughts on how scientific research will be impacted by the metaverse. Watch Chris and Mimi’s talk in full on Cassyni here

Thanks again to all our speakers, who each gave a brilliant talk and generated a lot of discussion in the room and afterwards. If you feel inspired by their talks and would like to speak at a future FuturePub event, please submit your lightning talk proposal here

And finally, it’s worth adding that The Royal Institution was the perfect place to be discussing novel engagement methods for science and research — the Ri is the home of the Christmas Lectures and one of London’s first one-way streets, assigned as such purely to manage the high volumes of traffic caused by the masses of public visitors to the Ri that wanted to hear about the latest research. Indeed, what is even more special is that most of these visitors were women, who at the time weren’t allowed to attend any public lectures at other prestigious London venues. The Ri helped open up science to all of society, and today it’s an inspiring yet at the same time cosy and friendly building, perfect for FuturePub 🙂 

What did our attendees think?

We received overwhelmingly positive feedback on the event, with attendees loving the location and venue, and also engaging with the lightning talks and added extras, such as a heritage tour of the building and a classic Ri demo show while we mopped up the last of the food and drink and met new people. 

We also have some helpful tips for next time — clearer labelling on the food, slightly less photography, more time for networking! Oh, and more capacity — we had a number of people who couldn’t attend because it was fully booked. So for the next FuturePub London we will aim for a slightly bigger venue, whilst keeping the cosy, friendly feel!

Tish Mehta of Warwick University said that FuturePub was a “Really fun and friendly atmosphere, great opportunity to learn about all sorts of new tech and meet interesting people.” 
Lightning talk speaker Chris Arthurs of Hadean commented that FuturePub is a “Fantastic event for connecting with people from across the scientific and scientific publishing world. A highly stimulating environment, covering both fun and intellectual discussion.”

It was great to be back FuturePubbing. We’ll take on board all feedback received, to make sure we keep doing more of the good stuff. Our next event will be in the Autumn, and if you’d like to know more about what the Digital Science team are up to in the meantime, keep your eyes peeled on TL;DR where we’ll keep our ears to the ground and share the latest in research in informal and easy to digest content from our internal experts and leading voices from within our community.

Tag, you’re it!

Check out our photo gallery from the night and see whether you can spot yourself!

See you at the next FuturePub

Our next FuturePub London will be held in Sept/Oct 2023 — you can subscribe to the FuturePub video series on Cassyni to receive an automatic update ahead of the next event, and we’ll be sure to announce it widely when the date and venue are confirmed!

If you’d like to speak at a future FuturePub event, please submit your lightning talk proposal here

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